Test & Research Centre urges trades to be careful with ladders

Test & Research Centre urges trades to be careful with ladders

Test & Research Centre is urging the trades to be vigilant when it comes to the equipment they use on site.

Test & Research Centre, the not-for-profit testing facility for work at height equipment, has seen its fair share of dodgy ladders. But when their team was asked to examine a suspicious shipment intercepted by Trading Standards at the Port of Felixtowe in February 2021, even they were shocked at just how dangerous these products turned out to be.

The ladders were a type of telescopic standing ladder – ones that can be used in standing mode (like a step ladder) or leaning ladder mode (like an extension ladder). They were labelled ‘EN 131’, implying that they complied with the European standard for ladders.

However, missing contact details, product codes and manufacture dates, plus the presence of an illegal ‘CE’ mark, raised suspicions with Suffolk County Council Trading Standards. Within a few days, the ladder was in the test lab at Test & Research Centre undergoing an assessment.

There’s a whole range of tests a ladder must pass before it can be labelled ‘EN 131’, including strength tests, slip tests and cyclic tests of the joints and connections. There are also specific requirements for materials and dimensions. This gives consumers confidence that their ladder meets basic safety standards.

The ladders in this shipment might have been labelled ‘EN 131’ but as Test & Research Centre were about to prove, they would fail many of the standard’s safety-critical tests in spectacular fashion.

Their testing found:

  • The base width was too small, making it unstable
  • The rung spacing was inconsistent, making falls more likely
  • No slip-resistant surface on half the rungs
  • It bent under pressure, up to 4x greater than the limit – you expect a ladder to be rigid and inflexible, but this was the opposite!
  • Mandatory safety markings and information were missing
  • The rungs could easily be pulled out of the stile – a most worrying finding, as it means the rung could collapse from under you
  • One stile cracked during the lightest load testing – a serious structural failure that put a halt to further testing

Due to the diligence of Trading Standards Officers at the Port of Felixstowe, 100 dangerous ladders were seized for further investigation. With the Test & Research Centre’s help, testing proved that those suspicions were correct and they were right to prevent them from entering the UK.

The authorities are warning the trades to source safety equipment from reliable retailers: “When you’re shopping online, it is tempting to pick up those amazing deals that you see on social media or in online marketplaces,” declares Graham Crisp, Head of Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards. “But if a price looks too good to be true, there’s usually a reason why. We encourage people to only make purchases from reputable retailers and to check the product for conformity to standards – if these marks are missing, the product hasn’t been tested to ensure it complies with the necessary safety requirements and could be a serious risk.”

If you want to watch a video of the testing in progress then visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?mc_cid=77fed3886f&mc_eid=UNIQID&v=Cwfv_T5r30s&feature=youtu.be

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